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tv   Hardball With Chris Matthews  MSNBC  January 23, 2012 4:00pm-5:00pm PST

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>> and for for them. i will travel all over this country to make al sharpton president. >> so mitt, be authentic. be -- well, forget it. newt, tell the truth -- well, santorum, trying to be inclu -- well, ron paul, try to be coherent. you know what? you guys just do the best you can. it's impossible to re-create you with only an hour or two to go. thanks for watching. i'm al sharpton. "hardball" starts right now. mutiny in the magic kingdom. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews down in tampa, florida. leading off tonight, fight night in florida.
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i want to know what panic looks like? just watch mitt romney. here some are of the phrases he's been throwing at newt gingrich. resigned in disgrace. failed leader. left in shame. mitt can't sell himself, so he's going after newt. but already two automated polls for florida's primary next week have shown a complete reversal. it's now newt on top. why? because the base is revolting against the republican party's ruling class. the winner in south carolina, this saturday was the republican right wing. no one channels the anger, the hatred and not just at barack obama, better than newt. the only way for mitt to catch newt is for him to match newt. pretend he hates just as much. he might also learn how to become a media basher like newt. no one does it better. well, newt, well, will newt do it again tonight in and watching all the debates, you might have gotten the impression that president obama is a socialist, someone desperate to turn the u.s. of a into some pale
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imitation of a bankrupt europe. tonight, debunking some of the enduring myths about president obama. let me finish with the fact that down here in florida, it's not all the magic kingdom. you can catch or actually watch the nbc news republican debate tonight on a special edition of "rock center" with brian williams. the debate on nbc airs at 9:00/8:00 central time. we start with fight night. it's got to be called that. chuck todd is the political director for nbc news and our chief white house correspondent. and howard fineman is an msn b c correspondent. newt gingrich is going after mitt romney personally, going after his character, making who this guy is the central issue of his campaign. newt knows this better than anyone. newt will respond. what a night. >> it is. and it strikes me as a little bit of a trap because this is what newt gingrich does. he enjoys the verbal combat. what i am surprised by this romney pivot, the romney pivot
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is full on, make gingrich completely unacceptable. whatever it takes. what they are not showing anything yet and maybe this is coming. maybe this is coming in a couple of days. how to fix the mitt problem. there is a mitt problem there or he wouldn't be losing to conservatives by a near 2-1 margin in south carolina. he wouldn't be seeing his leads collapse at a moment's notice. because his leads have collapsed. the robo polls are probably overinflating the newt surge but the campaign pollsters all have this race is neck and neck. >> why don't the republican smart guys around mitt romney remember what jimmy carter tried to do to ronald reagan? instead of building up jimmy carter they said you can't vote for ronald reagan and the public, the electorate said, oh, yeah? oh, yeah? we're going to vote for him because we don't like you. >> there are a couple of problems for mitt romney. he can't credibly attack newt gingrich from the right. now, joe scarborough, our
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colleague, can say, newt gingrich isn't a real conservative. and that's damning coming from joe who is one. but it won't work for mitt romney. that's number one. number two, i just spent the day in a very affluent part of sarasota, florida, near long boat key. the establishment republicans wears thick upon the ground as the egretss on the golf course. and they are saying -- they are saying, if mitt romney goes down that road, it's not going to do mitt romney any good. i talked to a guy named fred in sarasota. and he's a staunch establishment republican. but he said if mitt romney tries to behave like newt gingrich, mitt romney will lose what i find attractive about him which is that he is the sane, straight ahead, level-headed guy. he's going to lose that fight. that's what establishment republicans say. romney is faced with a hobson's choice. does he go after him that way or not? either way, he loses. >> the most -- the roughest political advice i ever got was
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don't get in a peeing match with a skunk, right? >> yes. you said it, i didn't. >> i'm not saying it's relevant. i'm saying it's helpful information in a general situation. newt gingrich told a crowd in tampa this afternoon, he expected mitt romney to get desperate at the debate tonight. let's watch his pregame. >> if you have been campaigning for six years and you begin to see it slip away, you get desperate. and when you get desperate you say almost anything. and i think tonight's debate he'll probably stretch the barrier of almost anything. and i've been memorizing old phrases like, there you go again. because it's such baloney. now it used to be pious baloney. now it's just desperate baloney. that's the succession of this. romney's pious baloney to his desperate baloney. if romney attacks or throws the punch or newt reminds him that he threw the punch, even if he
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checks his swing tonight, it's easy because people always root for the person under attack. whether it's ronald reagan with there you go again or david against goliath. >> i think this is one they loved how newt responded to their attacks in iowa. newt sort of grabbed it and it was -- he didn't handle it well. i think that's one thing. they think he didn't handle it well the first time. let's see what happens when we really drop a meteor on him. the second thing, though, is what does -- how does newt go forward in this a little bit that says, okay, you know, on saturday night ithought he responded with a very odd speech. his victory speech was not a victory speech. was still somehow showing a grievance. somehow showing anger. >> i thought it was aimed, after i thought about it, at this state's -- >> he didn't act like a nominee. >> but he's still got to win florida. >> not only that. what i don't get on the romney people is they make this case it's the long game. they are the ones ready. they are acting if they lose
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florida, it's a house of cards and the whole thing crumbles. >> isn't newt still trying to win up at the panhandle? the southern part of northern florida where -- where you keep talking about food stamps playing to white resentment. >> yes, it's partly that but even among these establishment republicans that i was talking to today, they can't stand barack obama. on many levels. they want him out. and even for moderate establishment republicans, they are surprise league fierce when talking to him on a street corner in an affluent part of sarasota. they want him out. they wish that mitt romney had the ability to fight the way newt gingrich does. and the problem mitt romney also has is, yes, they are surrogates and independent spending groups but in a debate you have to carry the argument yourself. newt gingrich relishes this. he's had 20 years of it on the floor. he's had 25 years of it in congress. mitt romney doesn't know how to do it very well. >> here's the man we're talking
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about. mitt romney getting aggressive and attacking newt gingrich. last night he called the former speaker of the house a failed leader. today he hit newt on multiple fronts. let's watch him in action. let's watch. >> in the case of the speaker, he's got some records which could represent an october surprise. we could see an october surprise today from newt gingrich. saying that newt gingrich is a lobbyist is just a matter of fact. but if you are working for a company getting paid for a company through one of your many entities and then you are speaking with congressmen in a way that would help that company, that's lobbying. i think as you look at the speaker's record over time, it's been highly erratic. he's gone from pillar to post almost like a pinball machine, from item to item in a way which is highly erratic and does not suggest a stable, thoughtful course which is normally associated with leadership. >> what do you make of that?
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what is he saying? he's captain queen? something wrong with the guy? >> one of his top people just the other day e-mailed me and said newt is crazy. and that's the line that -- >> he's crazy like a fox because i just got the word from mike from nbc, that newt is going to release the paperwork. >> and he released his taxes, which are interesting. >> he puts a lot of his income and -- >> it's not totally clean. but he puts the pressure on mitt romney. this kind of ball game, newt, whatever else you think about newt, he's a master at it. >> romney comes across as a calm, sweatless, in charge executive, ceo. if newt can drag him into a mud fight, who wins the mud fight? >> four years ago we saw this movie. mitt romney came to florida. desperate to stop john mccain and he threw everything at him. went in debates and john mccain,
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every time -- john mccain sort of just swatted him away. almost like a lion would swat away some fly that was coming after him and newt is -- >> here's the ad. we're right on top of this what you just said. here's mitt romney's newest ad. it's not him. it's the paid ad but it is his own campaign's ad, not some third party going after newt's ties to freddie mac. let's watch. >> while florida families lost everything in the housing crisis, newt gingrich cashed in. gingrich was paid over $1.6 million by the scandal-ridden agency that helped create the crisis. >> and i offered advice. and my advice as a historian -- >> an historian? really. sankssed for ethics violations, gingrich resigned from congress in disgrace and then cashed in as a d.c. insider. if newt wins, this guy would be very happy. >> this is ultimate fighting. >> that's their best argument. i think that's the romney campaign's best argument. it's not that newt isn't a real
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conservative because they can't carry that argument. it's -- >> they are calling him a crook? >> they are calling him a crook and they cleverly cut in the fact he had the ethics violation and left congress with fannie and freddie which really weren't related at all but they make it look that way. that can cut down here. don't you think, chuck? >> it can because of the foreclosure and all that thing but it doesn't deal with the romney problem. that's the issue. he's got a message problem. >> we've got to go. who do you want fighting obama? they seem to want newt right now. chuck todd and howard fineman. you can watch the nbc news republican debate on a special edition of "rock center" tonight at 9:00 eastern with brian williams. 9:00 eastern/9:00 central. a big fight tonight on nbc. the base is revoellting. newt gingrich is surging. you're watching "hardball." [ male announcer ] you are a business pro.
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here in florida, rick santorum was questioned by a woman who referred to president obama as a muslim. listen to the question and then santorum's answer. >> he is an avowed muslim, and why isn't something being done to get him out of the government. he has no legal right to be calling himself president. >> well, yeah, i'm doing my best to try to get him out of the government. you're right about how he uniformally ignores the constitution. he does these with his opoi opointments over the, quote, recess that was not a recess. if i was in the united states senate, i'd be drawing the line. >> an avowed muslim. that's what she said. she also said he has no right to call himself president and no correction whatever from rick santorum. the former senator told
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reporters afterwards that he's not -- well, it's not his job to correct people who say things he doesn't agree with. and he said the reporters who asked him about it were playing gotcha. by the way, telling the truth and correcting people who don't tell the struth not a matter of opinion. this is below the normal moral behavior of rick santorum. he should have corrected it right on the spot. he normally would have, i think. we'll be right back. would you take it? well, there is. [ male announcer ] it's called ocuvite. a vitamin totally dedicated to your eyes, from the eye-care experts at bausch + lomb. as you age, eyes can lose vital nutrients. ocuvite helps replenish key eye nutrients. [ male announcer ] ocuvite has a unique formula not found in your multivitamin to help protect your eye health. now, that's a pill worth taking. [ male announcer ] ocuvite. help protect your eye health.
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i think they sent two really big messages which i wish the national establishment could pick up. the sfifrt real pain. there's tremendous unemployment. people really are hurting. the second, though, which i think nobody in washington and new york gets is the level of anger at the national establishment. >> he's got that right. welcome back to "hardball." the base the republican party is in revolt. right now, no one is tapping into that anger and channeling it better than newt gingrich. you just heard him there.
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that trend line from real clear politics shows that since december 1st, newt gingrich has surged with republican voters here in florida. he slipped for a few weeks but automated polls taken just this weekend have gingrich ahead now here in this primary coming up next week. he's pulled into a tie now when you average polls taken in the past week. can gingrich ride the wave of anger to a victory in florida? can he win the republican nomination overall? bill was the state attorney general here in florida and is now newt gingrich's florida campaign chairman. for the other candidate, congressman john micah supports mitt romney. let me give you both equal time here. bill, i hear you have a great statewide organization. i heard it from a top democrat the other day. you are putting it at the disposal of newt gingrich. >> we've got a great state of organization. it's not all mine. it's really his. a grassroots organization. county chairs in all 67 count fooeps many coalition groups and
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this ground swell of support because people see newt as the one most able to articulate the conservative positions and will be the most likely to be able to win in the fall election against president obama because he's crisper, more concise. has a vision. has the leadership skills and knowledge. you are seeing that demonstrated -- >> why is he calling the president the food stamp president? >> i think he's trying to make the point about welfare reform. remember going back to our days when you and i used to talk about that. >> you don't think that has a racial tinge to it? >> no. i've heard you say that. >> why do every african-american i talk to think it has a -- >> i think that's a leftover vestige. >> for them? >> i think things have changed a lot. a lot of people are on food stamps in florida who have nothing to do with race. a lot of people are hurting in this state that are whites, hispanics, every race. his point is, look. we need to give people a hand up, not a hand out. and that's something that republicans and conservatives believe very, very deeply and it stings try to the bottom line. newt is hitting the core issue of what we do in the future.
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what's the difference between the republicans and democrats on these issues? >> the difference between your candidate newt gingrich and mitt romney is that kind of talk. let me go to congressman micah. your candidate, the former governor of massachusetts, just doesn't talk about that kind of red meat stuff. food stamps. you know the big excitement that rages among working class whites. they go, oh, yeah, they are living off the state and i'm working hard. you know the old symbolism of that kind of talk. mitt won't talk in that angry talk of the ticked off voter. is that going to stop him from winning? >> well, i think, you know, this political banner and the charges, last week, i think, mr. gingrich, and i served with him, too, he became the recipient of some of the anger of the american people. and it was really, i think, part of the media going overboard in his case, and he benefited by it. we've seen these media bumps in the past, but i think when
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florida settles down, it votes and it's quite different. it has an amalgamation of people from around the country. they want people who is solid and can address their issues. who has also had business experience, his personal life and also, i think, elected executive experience that make a difference and can make a difference in their life. >> well, i think the difference between the way you two guys talk explains this race so far. here's nbc's peter alexander asking mitt romney if he's done a good enough job channeling the anger and resentment of the base of the republican party that it feels right now. here's romney's answer. >> you know, something mike huckabee said was interesting. he said, look. i'm a conservative but i'm not angry at anybody about it. i don't think ours is the party of anger. we're upset with the president. he's taken the country in the wrong direction. but we want somebody who can lead our country and can lead our party. >> i'm not sure what mike huckabee made that kind of
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comment, but anger is in the streets of this country. not just in the republican party. >> chris, it isn't just anger. they are looking for a bold leader, change in direction. they know the economy is not going right. newt gingrich has the boldest and best economic plan. he's strong on national security. has a long background of knowledge in that arena and can talk the talk. he knows how to take it to the debate. that's what the people like. that's what the conservative base likes. they want somebody they are confident is going to be able to take it to president obama in the fall and in the campaign and debates. >> what would he do in the debate mitt romney won't do? >> he'll be crisp, to the point. let's take obama care. romney care is the model for obama care. he's got -- governor romney has one arm tied behind his back. he supported that. they've got real problems in massachusetts with it now. higher insurance premiums. fewer people can get to see grps all kinds of problems. newt can talk about it on that plain romney never can.
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>> he's always throwing the slabs slab s of meat. the president being trained by sollinsky. he never stops talking like that and they love it. >> it gets the points across pretty crisply and sharply. >> crisply? you think the president is a socialist? >> he has the leadership -- >> is the president a socialist? >> i don't call him a socialist, but -- >> your guy does. >> he way to the left. i get pretty close to. >> he's a european what? >> i say he's a european-style president. >> a european-style president? >> let me tell you this. what gingrich has is -- >> you mean he's like churchill, that kind of leader? would he be like de gaulle. >> i think a little closer to maggie thatcher. >> your candidate will not talk in this street language of so is your old man saying he's not quite a socialist but way far to the left. sort of european, whatever that means. does that mean like maggie thatcher, one of the conservatives heroes sore he one
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of those stranger europeans. berlusconi. he's on the right, too. what are they talking about when they say he's european? i don't get it. i do get it. mr. mica, your guy doesn't talk like this guy. >> well, i think americans have had enough of people who, you know, try to incite with rhetoric and all of this stuff that's gone on. and then we've had, you know, the other side of the coin, people who just don't seem to understand that what we need is a uniter and not a divider. the country has had enough of that. then the most important thing, and this is the thing for floridians. we've got 10% unemployment. i've got 14%. when all this mishmash is over, we need somebody who has business experience. somebody who has a personal life that's a good example and who has led as an executive. we've got a guy that was a community organizer. he won the, you know, "american
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idol" contest and he can sing but he can't lead. we've had that. we need a leader. >> okay, thank you, mr. mica. you heard that shot about the personal life and the -- >> he's my congressman and my friend. i think there are european leaders way over to the left and that's where president obama is. we don't want to go to -- >> wouldn't you say that newt gingrich -- wouldn't you say newt gingrich's personal life is more european than obama's? i would say it's more european. anyway, thank you, bill mccollum. i don't mean to disgrace him. thank you congressman mica. i am so glad -- you are great members of congress. i've seen you guys over the years. i think you are great. i love this debate. up next, newt gingrich is a professional basher of us, the media. he's pretty good at it. he's going to do it again in the debate tonight? let's ask david gregory. he's had some of these debates to moderate. you're watching "hardball" on msnbc. ♪ he was a 21st century global nomad ♪
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forty years ago, he wasn't looking for financial advice. back then he had something more important to do. he wasn't focused on his future. but fortunately, somebody else was. at usaa we provide retirement planning for our military, veterans and their families. now more than ever, it's important to get financial advice from people who share your military values. for our free usaa retirement guide, call 877-242-usaa. welcome back. when the books are written about the 2012 campaign for president, there's surely to be a chapter focused on newt gingrich's debate performances in south carolina last week. well, we've got a big debate coming up tonight on nbc down near tampa moderated by brian williams. all eyes will be on the former speaker. can he keep up his momentum?
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what does he need to do tonight and what can we expect from his rival mitt romney. here to help us with that is david gregory, moderator of "meet the press." you've also moderated a debate. but these are so fascinating because newt gingrich uses debates for a whole new thing. it's not nixon versus kennedy. sometimes it's newt versus the moderator. >> no question. let's remember. this is not his new feeling anymore. he had the debate last week where he really went after this question about his ex-wife. so, you know, that novelty is going to wear off. this is what gingrich does. >> will he jump the shark tonight. too much of it? >> it's possible but i think he knows how to restrain himself, too. i think the risk here is that romney will come out a little too hot and gingrich is going to be like bush was, remember in 2000 when gore walked up to him. just shoot him a look. >> he won the election with that if he did win it. >> who is most comfortable in their skin? it's going to be a battle with
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that. who is waiting to go after the media elite, so called. it's important for us to remember, as hard as this is for people in our business. this is not about us. this is not about us. this is what he does. this is not an argument on the moreits. >> let's watch him do it. here's thursday night in that debate. let's watch newt. >> i think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. and i am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that. >> as you noted, mr. speaker, this story did not come from our network. it is the subject of conversation in the campaign. i get your point. i take your point. >> john it was repeated by your network. you chose to start the debate with it. don't try to blame somebody else. >> you know, just in terms of get off the media for a second in terms of political gamesmanship. he took a lemon and turned it
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into lemonade. an attack on his personal life where he was vulnerable and turned it into a brilliant assault on the establishment in front of a republican audience. >> you walk into that room as a member of the media. if you are going to pick a fight like that, you have to be willing to follow it through because you'll not win the crowd. you can't play to that crowd. the reality is newt gingrich has said to me and others that's these are fair questions. and when i questioned him about it yesterday, i made that part of the predicate. there was a new wrinkle there. what's the answer to the question? he ultimately got to the answer after he wanted to make his point. gingrich may use the media as a foil. but i really think that's the undercard here tonight. i think that got a big splash. i think tonight is about how he engages romney. how romney decides to come at him. >> how does romney -- you have to watch this. maybe this isn't our business but will be after we watch it. romney has to go on the attack because he's been on the attack for 48 hours. he can't pull back or he'll be accused of pulling a -- what
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that guy from minnesota that we can't remember. pulled a pawlenty. he was ready to go and didn't do it. even if he doesn't take the shot, newt can come back and say, i heard what you've been saying about me. >> i think the moderator's job and brian williams is more experienced at it than me. i think the job is to get out of the way and create a situation where you are asking pointed questions to allow them to debate each other and allow them to engage each other. we were just talking during the break. you have these time limits. it's so crazy with the lights going off and it's flashing. what does yellow mean? what does red mean. they've been doing this a lot all right. let them go. let them play. >> you probably have an executive producer nearby saying, ignore the lights. let it go. >> thank you david gregory. could be one of the great nights of political television. tonight at 9:00 eastern, 8:00 central. if you don't watch this tonight, you are really missing a big part of this republican side of this fight. to see who fights obama. this is a warm-up, i'd have to say for what's going to come in november.
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up next if you listen to the republicans you might think president obama is some kind of socialist. we just heard a guy on here, mccollum, saying he's got european thinking. i don't he think was talking about maggie thatcher. we'll debunk some of the enduring myths when we come back. you're watching "hardball" on msnbc. since 1894, ameriprise financial has been working hard for their clients' futures. never taking a bailout. helping generations achieve dreams. buy homes. put their kids through college. retire how they want to. ameriprise. the strength of america's largest financial planning company. the heart of 10,000 advisors working with you, one-to-one. together, for your future. ♪
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i'm milissa rehberger. the shipwrecked "costa concordia" is said to be stable enough for fuel to be pumped out of its tanks. they want to remove the fuel so it doesn't leak and destroy the environment. also today, searchers found two more bodies. so far, 15 are confirmed dead. 17 others are missing. at least two tornadoes ripped through jefferson county, alabama, overnight killing two people and injuring more than 100 others. according to the red cross, more than 200 homes were destroyed. hundreds of others are heavily
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damaged. senator mark kirk is intensive care following a stroke. part of his skull had to be removed earlier to allow for swelling in his brain. no word yet on how long his recovery could take. representative gabrielle giffords resigned over the weekend. today she spent one of her final days in office finishing the community meeting she started more than a year ago, the day she was shot. giffords is expected to attend a state of the union address tomorrow. now back to hardball. we're back. president obama's gearing up to make the state of the union address tomorrow night, of course. we wanted to examine some of those tall tales that republicans have been pushing about president obama over the last three years. jonathan alter wrote a ground-breaking piece taking issue with some of those myths republicans like to spin. joining me now to walk through
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some of the list, our political white house reporter david williams and david corn. i want to start with david. let's take a look at this socialist charge. jonathan's piece, he pointed out that t.a.r.p. began under president george w. bush and goes on to write that obama's policies have not even been close to being socialist. "obama rejected nationalizing banks and made clear that he had no interest in running the auto companies receiving t.a.r.p. money. the president's health care reform law keeps insurance in private hands, adopts the individual mandate concept from the conservative heritage foundation and is modelled in part on former governor mitt romney's massachusetts's rrm fop. not exactly a belshevik plot as obama put it. finally, the dodd/frank reform bill which obama signed into law in 2010 regulates wall street but hardly controls it. this idea, by the way, hold the president somewhat responsible.
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how he ever got the socialist tag thrown on this bill which is basically at least, i'd say to the right of nixon's plan. nixon wanted to make employers have to pay for everybody's health care. this says the individual has to do it. >> you know, it's been an absurd charge from the very beginning that he's a socialist. there's nothing he's done that's the least bit socialistic. but you still hear it, even in the past few days. newt gingrich saying he wants to turn america into a socialistic european-style secular state. and you see -- and you hear mitt romney saying something a little more mild than that that he wants to turn america into a european social welfare state which sounds a lot like socialism. i mean, i think the president needs to get out there and advocate for his own programs more strongly than he has over the past two years. but he shouldn't be out there worrying about defending himself on a charge like this. it's kind of -- it's not even a dog whistle. it's a bull horn and the people who buy it, you can't reason
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with them, chris. this is crazy stuff. >> i keep hearing socialist. i hear europe. i hear sol olinsky. what is all this? it seems it's all to try to make him somewhat alien, someone different. not just an american guy but some kind of different person. we can't argue about the role of government without being called foreign. that's what's going on here, i think, joe. >> well, and that's exactly right. you put your finger taun that not only are they charges designed to make the president who looks like -- unlike any other president we've ever seen which is part of the problem or part of the communications issue. it is so freaked out people on the right that they just kind of grasp at other things to make him seem like he's the other. and that's where the european charge comes in. that's where you heard it today in santorum's event where you had a woman declare -- declare that the president was a kenyan-born muslim.
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so the truth gets out there and it doesn't stick. he released the birth certificate. it's three years ago we were complaining about his affiliation with a christian reverend who had problems with america. so that in and of itself contradicts the notion he might have some other religious identity. but the problem the white house faces here is a communications one. if they don't refute these things fast and firmly, allegations which they may seem as silly, they have a tendency to stick with people who don't necessarily agree with his programs. >> i think that is being aloof. contrary to popular belief, jonathan alter cakes the case president obama has not been an effective speaker. there are few examples of obama's speeches actually moving popular opinion. and that's because he speaks in impressive paragraphs, not memorable sentences. he is allergic to sound bites and that keeps him from effectively framing his goals and achievements. back to you, david. i agree. i think he has a problem for a guy who is masterful, beautiful
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poetic in his presentation. knows the language in a richer form than most people on the planet. and yet doesn't make the points he needs to punch back with. >> you mean winning the future didn't do it for you, chris? but the thing is, i don't disagree with jonathan's point. but i also think we live in a world where big speeches just don't bring big movements in popular opinion. people are watching the channels they watch. they are getting the news they want. and we don't have the sort of communal experience any longer with our leaders. before the debt ceiling episode was over, the president did give a speech and he did ask people to call congress and complain or demand a compromise. and the fall lines did light up for a day or two. so i think he's had some impact. but i think it's really hard in these times for him to sort of move the needle. what moves the needle now is what he's done since that jobs speech which is to get out there and fight day in, day out for his program and show that he's ready to throw a few punches.
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>> but you also have that -- >> joe, he got elected with his speeches. they were brilliant. by the way, he was quite capable of one-liners. i will never forget that speech he gave at one of the -- back in one of the acceptance speeches in 2004 when i first discovered this guy. he said and only in this country is my story possible. what an amazing line. it's so pro-american, so much that the heart of our exceptional nature. it's chilling to think about what a great line that remains to this day. barack hussein obam apresident of the united states. and no other country would make that decision. go ahead. your thoughts. >> the skinny kid with the big ears and the funny name, he also put it. and this is one of the things he has to hammer home. his is truly an american story. what david said is very true that people who don't believe it aren't going to. and that's a tough road for them to hoe because those -- that segment of the population tends to infect the other where you have this sort of granular truth that comes out and people sort
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of accept it as fact. so that's a communications issue. and it also speaks to the fact that mario cuomo once said, the famous line from him. you campaign in poetry. you gov northern prose. that's not always strictly true. a lot of times the speech moved a lot of people. got a lot of inspiration going on on the left. there is room for that. whether or not the president thinks this is something he needs to do or is drawing away from his seriousness of his presidency, i think he's got to make up his mind up and his communications shop has to make up their mind about that as well. >> he better be paying attention to newt gingrich. if gingrich gets all the way, he knows how to use two words to make points. anyway, thank you. food stamps. thank you, david corn. thank you joe williams. not the nicest words in the world but he knows how to use them. will the real mitt romney stand up? the question is, is there a real mitt romney? a hell of a question for a lot of people. we'll go to a couple of "boston globe" reporters who just wrote a book on the guy and have been
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give me your war face! raaah! [ male announcer ] halls. a pep talk in every drop. fight night in florida. watch the nbc news republican debate on a special edition of "rock center" with brian williams tonight. the debate airs at 9:00 eastern, 8:00 central. join us tomorrow night for msnbc's coverage of president obama's state of the union address. we'll be right back. [ male announcer ] drinking a smoothie with no vegetable nutrition?
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i go to e-trade and tap into the power of revolutionary mobile apps to trade wherever. whenever. life isn't fully experienced sitting idly by. neither is investing. [ birds chirping ] welcome back to "hardball." mitt romney's been running for president now for years.
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but with his resistance to get into the details of his financial success, his religion and his personal life, in many ways, he's still unknowable. so just who is this man? and why is he running for president? that's a darn good question. michael kranich and scott helman are "boston globe" reporters who have co-authored the new biography of him, "the real romney," that tries to unlock the mystery of mitt romney. welcome. michael, i want to read something from your book. it's something that was said following his defeat to ted kennedy back in 1994. there was a looming question there over dinner one night and after that race. romney fellows had this to say to him. something was really eating at him that one couldn't sum up in a sentence why he had run. "after all the weeks and months of that campaign if you ask why did mitt romney run for u.s. senate and what did he stand for, most people had no clue." the republican recalled romney was saying, "we didn't do a good job of getting the message across." but what is the message, michael? why is he running? does he know?
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>> well, chris, even in 2008 after that campaign, there's a chapter in the book and the conclusion of that chapter has mitt saying sort of the same thing. that he didn't do a good job getting his message out and running for president clearly romney's message is that he believes a business-centered country that has fewer regulations, that that is what he believes in. believes government should be stripped away to some degree. that's why he's running from his point of view. he's also running to fulfill a legacy if you talk to his friends and family. they'll tell you how strongly he believes he needs to pick up where his father failed in 1968 when his campaign was pretty much exploded when george romney said he had been brainwashed by the generals in vietnam. and mitt romney feels a great sense of obligation to see that through and has long seen this as his path. as you mentioned, he's often looked ahead to see, how do i get to where i can win, and some people have said that he lacks perhaps showing a core
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conviction and then will get to where he wants to be. >> let me go back to scott on this. i've just read the economist this week. it says that romney lacks conviction, passion and instinct. that's sort of the ball game in politics. if you don't have passion, conviction and instinct, is that a fair shot? of the tickets. >> it's a fair criticism. going back to the kennedy race in 1994 he had a political definition then than he has today. and i think he has moved around a lot and that goes to the heart of why people don't trust him, as one republican said his main cause appeared to be himself. he never got beyond that, and gave a sort of reson for the campaign. the whole question of money, he seems to be nervous, almost giddily weird when the issue of money couples, he has a funny laugh, maybe i'll release, he's
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getting around to releasing the tax returns for 2010, an estimate for 2011 tomorrow, he has been so weird about it. what is it about him and his wealth? >> well, this is an issue that goes back 18 years, back in the kennedy race we referred to, he challenged ted kennedy to release his tax returns, he said what have you got to hide. he said if you will show yours, i'll show mine. neither did release. it an issue he has been dealing many years. you mentioned the moment in the debate "maybe" in response to whether he would release his returns, that is the last word you want to use if people have questions about where your core convictions. you want to show certainty and he said yesterday that this was a mistake, and now a release a year of returns and estimate of last year, it won't answer all the questions, obviously, when he was at bain capital. that goes way back to 84 to 99, if we don't see the tax returns, there will be questions about that. if he is the nominee in the
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general election you can be sure the democrats will say what about those tax returns when you were at bain capital. >> yeah, scott, is there something in his background, maybe not lds religion that won't allow him to be anti-establishment, to try to ape a newt gingrich for being a crazy bring the house down guy? he seems like he can't be anti-establishment, mitt romney. >> i think that's right. he's been an institutionalist. as you look at the anti-war era, that is when he was coming of age as a young adult. and in fact a great picture in the book of him protesting the protesters at stanford. he was somebody who was appalled by counter culture. you're right, he is as far away from a bomb-throwing anti-establishment, his trick to florida is go after newt but not make it look like he's putting on too many of a costume because
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it's not him as david gregory said he has to look like he's comfortable in the skin or it comes across as phony. >> i get -- this is humorous, michael, the way dresses, mom jeans on saturday night live, very formal, the whole thing, rolls his sleeves up in an odd way, doesn't role them up the way most people do. he doesn't actually seem to open up his shirt collar, he opens it up but seems to stick together. the guy is so physically constricted, is he ready for this kind of business of politics at this level? >> well, it's interesting, chris christie said yes on "meet the press" he's very reserved, there is a little disconnect if you're running for president you're reserved, that is difficult. there is an anecdote in the book in the last campaign where the florida advisors wanted him to ditch the suit and tie. they said if you're going retirement community in florida you need to look more relaxed and that time they responded that would look unpresidential.
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this time around they tried to take the advice, it looks like he's trying too hard. he's more at home in the suit and tie. >> i think you're right. that is fair enough, just doesn't click with the way things are today. thank you, great book, i'm sure i'll read this thing "the real romney" thank you michael, i read parts of it, thank you scott helman. let me finish with the grim reality on the ground in florida. it's not the magic kingdom, not the whole state. you're watching "hardball" only on msnbc.
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let me finish tonight with this, we're heading in florida politically, get this straight we're not going t disneyworld. what newt and mitt are entering now in this state is the real world of 2012. the world of people's houses being below water level, being worth less than the mortgages they are paying every month. maybe in some cases more than 5%. in one county here, flagler the average house price plummeted from $260,000 to $120,000. think about that. get your head around those numbers. one day your house is worth more than a quarter million, the next day down to $100,000. that is what you're worth now. the average retirement savings, where that stands compared to a few years ago. the outlook for your kids compared to the 1990's. the unemployment rate is double digits. what does that do to the chances of launching yourself in the
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good life, parents watching children trying to make it wondering if they gave them the right start after all. so this ain't the imaginic kingdom. this sunshine state is a land of empty condos, mile after mile of then. once the stuff that middle class dreams were made of now the empty hopes and failed properties of those who can't figure out how to unload them. no, it's not bad for everyone. there is the big yachts the republican high rollers are are looking to dock here in tampa for the convention. we all feel for their in convenience, to lord over all those that walk past their parties. watch the parties knowing they haven't gotten invited. that is the way it is, as walter cronkite put it and that is why people are angry. angry at obama, the republican establishment, at us at the media, anyone they can be angry at. anyone who will listen to the pain that comes the nastiest to those who thought things would end up better. didn't


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